Non-Category Bonus Spending Analysis – Top Credit Card Choices

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In this post, I’ll discuss about non-category bonus spending.  Everyone has a favorite restaurant, grocery, fuel credit card, but what about expenses with no category bonuses such as gym memberships, home utilities, car registration fees, other everyday purchases?  Here are the top credit cards in my opinion for non-category bonus spending (note that these values are subjective and are based on my valuation of each point):

Chase Ink Bold/Plus – This may not be practical for everyone, but if you buy a $200 Visa gift card for $6.95 and spend using the Visa gift card, you could possibly get 4.2% back on all your purchases.  A purchase of a $206.95 gift card with Chase Ink Bold * 5X bonus on office supply stores = 1,035 UR points *1.5 cents per UR point = $15.52 of value.  Subtracting the fee of $6.95 to get the total value after fees would equate to $8.57 per $200 Visa gift card .  Spending on $200 Visa gift cards to get $8.57 in value per card would equate to a 4.2% return per dollar spent if you value UR at 1.5 cents per point.  

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Credit Card (if $30K spent to earn 15K extra points) – Spending $30K would yield 45,000 Membership Rewards.  That would equate to 1.5 MR points per dollar spent or 2.25% return per dollar spent based on a valuation of 1.5 cents per MR point.

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard – Spending $1 on this card would equate to 2.22% return per dollar spent because you receive 2X points on every purchase and each Barclaycard point can be redeemed for 1 cent of travel with a rebate of 10% back on points.  Therefore, each point is worth 1.11% and since it is 2X points on every purchase, each dollar spent is a 2.22% return.  See more details in My Review of the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard.

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card – Spending $1 on the AMEX SPG card would equate to about 2.2% return per dollar spent as I discussed in my post My New Valuation of American Airline Miles and SPG Points. 

United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card (if $25K spent to earn 10K extra points) – Spending $25K would yield 35,000 United miles with the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card.  That would equate to 1.4 United miles per dollar spent or a 2.1% return per dollar spent (1.4 * 1.5 cents per United mile).

AMEX Fidelity 2% Cash Back Card – Pure 2% cash back.  If you don’t travel much, this might be a card worth considering if you are a big spender.  I have enough travel expenses that I can use my Barclaycard Arrival and earn 2.22% cash back instead.

I personally put most of my non-category bonus spending on either the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard or Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.  The high spending threshold of the AMEX PRG card and United MileagePlus may not be attainable for everyone.  However, it could pay off if you have big personal or business expenses (which I don’t).  The first option yields the most value, however it can be a hassle keeping track of each $200 Visa gift card.  I sometimes do this method and did the method often when there were $500 Visa gift cards at Office Depot.  As of this post date, I cannot find any $500 Visa gift cards at office supply stores and there are rumors that they will only accept cash for Visa gift cards.  Therefore, I am waiting to see if $500 Visa gift cards are available soon so I will switch my spending to $500 Visa gift cards.  Frequentmiler is keeping good track of the situation.

Conclusion

My methods and valuations of each mile or point are subjective and may not work with everyone.  However, I can argue that a combination of these cards for non-category bonus spending in fact do yield the best return for your dollars spent.  Of course, meeting your minimum spending for your sign up bonuses come first and everything is dependent on your travel goals.  You may not want to collect SPG points to transfer to American Airlines or don’t find Membership Rewards points useful.  Do what works for you, but hopefully this guide will help you decide how to plan your future trips.  Anybody have any other credit cards to add for non-category bonus spending?

6 comments for “Non-Category Bonus Spending Analysis – Top Credit Card Choices

  1. Scott
    July 8, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Don’t forget the 2% cashback Priceline Visa from Barclay’s. Some places don’t take Amex, making it an alternative to the Fidelity card you mentioned.

    • July 8, 2013 at 6:32 am

      Barclays has discontinued the 2% cash back card that’s why I didn’t put it. You would have to be grandfathered in and I’m assuming many people don’t have the old version of the card.

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